Ray Gilbert moved back from ‘therapeutic prison’

The news that innocent life sentence prisoner Ray Gilbert has been sent back to Woodhill prison from the therapeutic regime at Grendon came as a blow to his supporters, who had hoped that Grendon might have been a sign that he was on his way out after serving 26 years.
At least Ray is on normal location at Woodhill, instead of the intense and punitive Close Supervision Unit, where he spent some years before his move. Prior to that, he had been passed around like a parcel from one segregation unit to another for much of the quarter a century he has been in prison. He is now 11 years over the 15-year tariff he was given.


Read more ...

Cruel and inhuman treatment of terminally ill prisoner

Former prisoner, Chris Tierney, who is dying from a brain tumour, has been recalled to prison for swearing at staff at a care home. Chris is paralysed down one side, losing his sight and displaying behaviour that medical experts on brain tumours say he cannot control. Ella Pybus, from the charity Brain Tumour UK, told The Guardian that it was ‘cruel and inhuman for a man who has served his sentence to be returned to prison to face a lonely and degrading death because of behaviour caused by a condition he cannot control, one that cannot be treated and that will end his life prematurely’.

Chris was imprisoned for life for murder in 1986. In 2004, he was diagnosed as having a brain tumour and was released from prison in March the following year, having been told that he had three years to live. On his release he was sent first to a probation hostel in Norwich, and from there eventually moved to a care home which specialises in the care of people with brain injuries. On 13 September probation officers recalled him to prison after he allegedly used abusive language towards a member of the nursing staff. He is now in the health care centre at Norwich prison.


Read more ...

Inside News / FRFI 194 Dec 2006 / Jan 2007

Irish POW protests continue
Irish Republican prisoners in Maghaberry gaol in the north of Ireland are continuing their protests, which began on 19 June, to win recognition as political prisoners. Prisoners have taken part in successive protests, including 72-hour hunger strikes, in order to highlight their case. Since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, the gains of the historic 1981 hunger strike for political prisoners have been reversed, as part of Britain’s ‘normalisation process’ in the north of Ireland. The prisoners are campaigning on five demands: the right to free association, freedom of movement, the right to full-time education, separate visiting facilities and the right to organise their own landings.


Read more ...

Labour government plans social fascism

The Labour Party’s programme for Tony Blair’s final year as Prime Minister was set out in the Queen’s speech at the opening of Parliament on 15 November 2006. She announced that the government would be pressing ahead with the introduction of ID cards and a stack of repressive measures, some new, others previously rejected and now being reintroduced. NICKI JAMESON reports.

Border and Immigration Bill
This increases the powers of immigration officers. Home Secretary John Reid plans to ‘reform’ the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (see FRFI 193), ‘streamline’ the appeals system to speed up deportations and create a new category for people who are claiming asylum but have committed serious crimes. This last measure is in response to the case of a group of desperate asylum seekers from Afghanistan who arrived in Britain in a hijacked plane. Despite attempts by ‘negotiators’ to persuade the hijackers and those who came with them to leave immediately, those who remained in Britain won an appeal against deportation, outraging the government. Anyone in this category will be barred from access to jobs, housing and benefits.


Read more ...

Inside News / FRFI 195 February / March 2007

Long Lartin punitive regime
Alfredo Mavrici, who is a prisoner at Long Lartin in Worcestershire, contacted FRFI in December to tell us that he was the first prisoner to be put on a new ‘Segregation Basic Regime’. We reprint the regime details below.


Read more ...

Solidarity with the Harmondsworth Uprising!

On Tuesday 28 November 2006 detainees at Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre rose up in protest against their imprisonment. The revolt lasted more than 24 hours and resulted in substantial damage to the privately-run detention centre. The protest came the day after the publication of a damning inspection report by Chief Inspector of Prisons Anne Owers into conditions at Harmondsworth, and was directly triggered by the attempts of members of staff to prevent a group of detainees from watching a news broadcast about the report. Annabelle Richardson reports.

The uprising started in B-wing but detainees in the other three wings quickly joined in. Specialist prison riot squads, called Tornado teams, were drafted in from all across south-east England to batter the protesters into submission. About 50 detainees were taken to the courtyard around midnight and left there with no food, shivering in the cold, until 7am on Wednesday. Some did not get their medication. Other detainees were locked in their rooms even though parts of the detention centre were on fire. The fires set off the sprinkler system, which caused extensive water damage to the centre.


Read more ...

Close down women’s prisons!

Following the tragic deaths of six women at Styal Prison in the 12 months ending August 2003, the government ordered a review of vulnerable women in the criminal justice system. The report, published on 13 March 2007, calls for women's prisons to be closed, and replaced with a local network of small custodial units, reserved only for those who are a danger to the public. Labour Baroness Jean Corston, who led the nine-month review, wants fewer women to be gaoled, with a much greater use of community punishment.

The majority of sentenced female prisoners are held for non-violent offences, and two-thirds of women inmates are mothers who are often held a long way from their families due to the small number of women's prisons. There are some very worrying figures – although women make up only 6% of the prison population, they account for more than half of all incidents of self-harm. Around 80% have diagnosable mental health problems. It is a bleak picture, made worse by the fact that most women prisoners have experienced domestic violence or been the victims of childhood abuse.


Read more ...

Rye Hill prison staff on trial for manslaughter

A jury at Northampton Crown Court has heard that a prisoner at privately-run Rye Hill prison committed suicide less than three weeks after making serious allegations of corruption against five officers. Three former members of staff are charged with manslaughter by gross neglect. One of them, along with another ex-officer, is charged with conspiring to pervert the course of justice. It is believed to be the first time in over 30 years that prison staff have stood trial in connection with the death of a prisoner. Eric Allison reports.

The court heard from the prosecution that in March 2005, 23-year-old Michael Bailey from Birmingham was found hanging in his cell in the segregation unit at Rye Hill prison near Coventry. He was on suicide watch following a rapid decline in his mental state which began shortly after being put in segregation.


Read more ...

Officer throws dice while prisoner dies

A recent London inquest heard a list of ‘systematic failings’ by Pentonville prison over the death of Paul Calvert in October 2004. Paul, a 40-year-old heroin addict from Hackney, was the father of two children. The court heard he had made many attempts to stop using illegal drugs. The jury was told he had a history of depression and self-harm.

The original allegations against Paul had been dropped but he was arrested for breach of bail conditions. Two days after he arrived at Pentonville, Paul climbed up pipes; after pressing the emergency button, he hanged himself from the cell window with his belt. Witnesses testified that they warned officers he was depressed, yet they moved his cellmate into another cell, leaving him alone.


Read more ...

State tortures and murders working class children with legal impunity

In September 2004, the government launched a programme called Every Child Matters, designed to portray its ‘vision for enhancement of the way in which professionals work together to provide children’s care and to place better outcomes for children firmly at the centre of all their policies and approaches’.

In April that year, at Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre (STC) in Northamptonshire, 15-year-old Gareth Myatt died while being ‘restrained’ by three adult males. His ‘offence’? He had refused to clean a sandwich toaster. The staff used a technique known as a ‘double-seated embrace’ which involved securing the youngster in a hold while seated on a chair or bed. During the struggle, Gareth lost consciousness and died of positional asphyxia. An inquest later heard that the teenager had tried to tell staff that he could not breathe. One of his assailants shouted ‘If you can shout, you can breathe’. Gareth then said that he was going to shit himself and somebody replied ‘Well, you are going to have to shit yourself, because we can’t let you go while you are like this’. The boy duly shat himself, but it did not stop the restraint and Gareth died choking on his own vomit. He was 4’10’ tall and weighed under seven stone. His assailants collectively weighed in at over 50 stone.


Read more ...

Deaths in custody

The first annual report of the Forum for Preventing Deaths in Custody was published on 21 September. The report found there were around 600 deaths in custody in England and Wales last year: in prisons, police cells, approved premises and secure hospitals. A third of these deaths were apparently self-inflicted, and the study by the Forum finds that some were preventable.

The report raised concerns about the number of mentally ill people in custody, and suggested they would be better looked after in psychiatric care. The number of self-inflicted deaths in prisons fell from 78 in 2005 to 67 last year, but the figure is on the rise again this year.


Read more ...

Prison officers' national strike

At 7am on 29 August members of the Prison Officers’ Association (POA) in all 129 state-run prisons in England and Wales began a national strike in protest against the government’s insistence that an agreed 2.5% pay rise would be implemented in two stages. The government immediately went to court and obtained an injunction forbidding the POA from ‘inducing, authorising or supporting any form of industrial action which would disrupt the operation of the Prison Service in England and Wales’. After a bit of bluster and confusion, during which officers at some prisons went straight back to work while others said they would stay out, the strike came to an end. During the course of the day a prisoner at Acklington, who was locked in his cell because of the strike, killed himself and POA members crossed their own picket lines to repress protests at Liverpool prison and Lancaster Farms Young Offender Institute. Nicki Jameson reports.


Read more ...

Labour government plans to build yet more prisons

In December 2007 Minister of Justice Jack Straw published the Lord Carter Review of Prisons and announced plans to build yet more prisons and create 96,000 prison places in England and Wales by 2014. Nicki Jameson reports.

Lord Carter – Labour’s peer of choice
Labour peer Lord Patrick Carter of Coles is one of the government’s favourite chairs of review committees, advising the Labour Party over the last five years on everything from the Commonwealth Games and Wembley Stadium to Payroll Services, Criminal Records Bureau, Offender Management, Public Diplomacy, and Pathology. He is hated by lawyers for his review of the legal aid system, which has paved the way for the government to make sweeping cuts to the provision of free legal representation and advice to the poorest people in society.


Read more ...

Victory but not justice for the Harmondsworth Four!

On 22 February, after a six-week trial, all four defendants charged following the November 2006 Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) uprising were acquitted of conspiring to commit violent disorder or criminal damage and various charges of damaging property. (Two had earlier pleaded guilty to specific acts of minor criminal damage.) The verdict was a great victory against the inhumane system of immigration detention and a positive result for all those who struggle and campaign against it. It was, however, hardly justice for the Harmondsworth Four, who, already detained at the time of the protest, had spent over a year on remand in criminal prisons and after the trial were redetained under immigration law.

The four men, two Russians, a Palestinian and an Egyptian, appear to have been picked almost at random by the British state to face a highly political prosecution in revenge for the uprising that wrecked Harmondsworth. They were accused of spending weeks plotting ‘widespread disorder and destruction’. The ‘evidence’ for this came largely from a detainee witness for the prosecution, who is said to have bartered his testimony for permission to work in Britain.


Read more ...

British prisons brutalise working class children

Britain has a long, pernicious history of brutalising working class children confined to state institutions, so it was hardly surprising when an amendment to the rules governing ‘secure training centres’ was introduced, widening the use of so-called ‘physical control in care restraint techniques’, one of which authorised staff to inflict blows to children’s faces, euphemistically called the ‘nose distraction technique’.  A recent legal challenge was partially successful in that the court found the rules were amended on the basis of ‘flawed and unlawful decision making’; however it did not agree to quash them.

The use of overt physical violence to control socially marginalised children is nothing new and for decades Borstals and Detention Centres operated regimes designed to teach a ‘tough lesson’ based on fear and intimidation. The death of a child in the Reading Detention Centre in the late 1960s partially exposed the regime of terror, although the state was careful to maintain the illusion that it neither sanctioned nor created the violence. More recently the extraordinarily high incidence of suicides, self-harm and suspicious deaths in Feltham Young Offenders Institute suggest that intimidation and brutality remain standard.


Read more ...

Pauline Campbell fighter for justice

FRFI is deeply saddened by the death on 15 May of Pauline Campbell, who for five years had fought an unrelenting struggle to expose the inhumane treatment of women prisoners. Following the death in 2003 of her 18-year-old daughter Sarah – the youngest of six women who died in Styal that year – Pauline began a campaign of direct action to expose the British prison system’s complete lack of care for vulnerable women. Between April 2004 and April 2008 every time a woman prisoner died, she staged a demonstration outside the prison – 28 demonstrations in all. RCG comrades regularly attended those at Styal, New Hall, Holloway and Durham prisons. Pauline was arrested 15 times and charged five times. The latest charges were recently dropped and we reprint below an article Pauline sent to FRFI just days before her death.

Pauline was completely non-sectarian. She lobbied MPs, spoke to parliamentary committees, emailed journalists, addressed conferences, marched with other relatives of people who had died in custody and demonstrated alongside peace campaigners, communists, anarchists and feminists. She wrote regularly for FRFI, as well as for many other publications.


Read more ...

Titan prisons

On 5 June the Ministry of Justice published Consultation Paper CP10/08 on Titan prisons. Those who wish to submit their views now have until 28 August. The term ‘consultation’ is used loosely as the government has already accepted the suggestion of the Carter Review (see FRFI 202) to build three ‘Titan’ prisons. These will be situated in or near to London, the West Midlands and the north west of England, and will house up to 2,500 prisoners each. The plan is to have the first Titan open by 2012. The cost of each new mega-prison is provisionally estimated at £350m at today’s prices. Although every new prison which has been built since Labour came to power has been built using private finance, the construction costs of the Titans will be borne by the tax-payer, although it is not yet determined who will run them.


Read more ...

EDITORIAL: Labour's police state

FRFI 145 October / November 1998

The passage of the Criminal Justice (Terrorism and Conspiracy) Act represents a new and fundamental attack on our democratic rights. As ever, when it decides on a new round of repression, the ruling class has dressed it up as a measure directed against an external threat. Yet we should have no illusions about this. This was not some panic measure in response to the Omagh bombing, or those on the US embassies in East Africa. It was a carefully calculated act by the Labour government to add to the armoury of repressive legislation that will be available in the event of any serious challenge from the working class in the future. The excuse - that it was needed for the fight against terrorism, international or otherwise - was for the gullible, in particular for the hundreds of Labour MPs who obediently trooped through the lobby to approve legislation which they had only seen on the day it was debated. By the end, they had made a fiction of the right to a fair trial, and of freedom of association, in Labour's Britain.


Read more ...

Editorial: London bombings fuel state terror

On 7 July 2005, more than 50 people were killed and hundreds injured by bombs planted on a bus and three underground trains in London during the morning rush-hour. The first attacks were followed, two weeks later, by four more attempted bombings of the transport system. It is clear that more may follow. The 7 July bombs were indiscriminate, killing London commuters from a wide range of backgrounds and origins. For the victims, their families and friends, these outrages are profoundly tragic. For the world, the London bombings have contributed to a wider tragedy.


Read more ...

Editorial: Don’t give in to government terror!

On 22 March the House of Lords finally gave in to the government and allowed through the latest Terrorism Bill (Labour’s fifth since coming to power in 1997), which will now become law. In the sixth round of a debate, centred in the main on the clauses that outlaw ‘glorification of terrorism’ and which has bounced between the Commons and Lords since last August, peers accepted the government plans by a majority of 112.


Read more ...

Privatising punishment

I believe people sentenced by the state to imprisonment should be deprived of their liberty and kept under lock and key by those accountable primarily and solely to the state.Labour Party Shadow Home Secretary Tony Blair, 1993

Labour will take back private prisons into public ownership – it is the only safe way forward.
John Prescott 1994

Within a week of being elected in 1997, Home Secretary Jack Straw reversed Labour’s pre-election position and announced that all new prisons would now be privately built and run. Since then punishment has become big business. In September 2008 the press announced that the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NACRO), a charity supposedly committed to campaigning for less use of imprisonment, had joined a consortium bidding to run two new prisons. Nicki Jameson reports.

During the 1980s right-wing think-tank the Adam Smith Institute had recommended to the Conservative government that it follow the example of the US, which was beginning to use private contractors to manage prisons. The Tories duly began experimenting with privatisation and by the time Labour took power four prisons and three immigration detention centres were being privately run.


Read more ...

Justice for Binyam Mohamed

Guantanamo: Justice for Binyam Mohamed

On 30 October 2008 it was announced that British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith had officially asked Attorney General Baroness Scotland to investigate ‘possible wrongdoing’ by the CIA and M15 in the case of Guantanamo detainee Binyam Mohamed, a British resident. On the same day, in a separate development, the US administration was finally forced to hand over to Mohamed’s lawyers the full defence evidence they have been demanding since May. Both events represent significant achievements in Mohamed’s long campaign for justice in the face of desperate attempts by both the British and US governments to hide evidence of their involvement in Mohamed’s extraordinary rendition and torture (see FRFI 205).


Read more ...

Government tightens legislative noose on foreign prisoners

On 1 August 2008 the section of the UK Borders Act 2007 which provides for ‘automatic deportation’ of ‘foreign criminals’ came into force and more legislation against foreign national prisoners is in the pipeline. These measures were introduced by the Labour government following the Tory and press outcry in April-May 2006 over the release of foreign national prisoners which led to the resignation of Home Secretary Charles Clarke. Nicki Jameson reports.


Read more ...

Crisis at the Metropolitan Police: £300,000+ handshakes all round

Two senior police officers in the Metropolitan Police have departed their jobs in the middle of what everyone agrees is a crisis for policing in London. The Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, resigned before his contract ended claiming that Boris Johnson, the popinjay, old Etonian, Tory London mayor, had driven him out. Resignation or not, Sir Ian pocketed a large pay-off from taxpayers’ money on top of his pension. Britain’s top Asian policeman, Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur, who sidled off a few days before Sir Ian clutching a fat cheque of his own, left having withdrawn a claim against his former boss for racism, promising to say no more.


Read more ...

Inside News / FRFI 207 Feb / Mar 2009

Ronnie Easterbrook
On 22 January FRFI supporters joined Brighton ABC and the Friends of Ronnie Easterbrook outside the Ministry of Justice in London to show our solidarity with Ronnie, who, as we go to press is entering the sixth week of a hunger-strike.

Ronnie was sentenced to life for armed robbery and attempted murder in 1988 after a failed robbery on a supermarket wages van. A police informant set the job up and Ronnie and two others were ambushed by PT17, the elite tactical firearms unit. Tony Ash was shot dead, despite surrendering, and Ronnie, Gary Wilson and a police inspector all suffered gunshot wounds. Also lying in wait was a Thames TV crew, who captured the shoot-out on film.


Read more ...

Prisoners’ rights under attack

Since Labour came to power in 1997 the prison population of England and Wales has increased from 61,000 to 81,748. The government has created more than 3,000 new criminal offences and totally changed the sentencing framework so that an unprecedented number of prisoners are serving indeterminate sentences. Britain has more life-sentenced prisoners than Germany, France, Russia and Turkey put together. The prison system is full to bursting and conditions are worsening. Prisoners have few legal tools with which to defend themselves but have at times been able to bring successful court actions against the prison system’s worst excesses. Labour’s Justice Minister Jack Straw and the Prison Officers’ Association want to stop them doing this. Nicki Jameson reports.


Read more ...

Licence to kill: Landmarks in the development of police powers to kill and get away with it

FRFI 207 February / March 2009

jcdm mural

The new Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson was appointed on 28 January promising to ‘convince all the communities of London that the Met is on their side’. His appointment followed the resignation of Sir Ian Blair in November 2008, who left under several looming clouds, not least the imminent verdict of the Jean Charles de Menezes inquest; allegations of racism from senior Asian police colleagues and a boycott by the Metropolitan Black Police Association; and an investigation into personal corruption.

The open verdict in the De Menezes inquest, which ended in December, proved to be the indictment of policing that Sir Ian Blair had feared. The jury were prevented from bringing a verdict of unlawful killing by a ruling of the coroner, but went as far as they could to point to the culpability of the police. The De Menezes family welcomed the verdict as at least some recognition of the circumstances of their son’s killing in Stockwell on 22 July 2005. But the family did not receive justice and they stand in a long line of families who have been on the receiving end of the development of police tactics to deal with political opponents, tactics which include murder and brutality.


Read more ...

Law and order

PAY Ian Bashford

It is no surprise that ever since Tony Blair uttered his soundbite ‘Tough on Crime; Tough on the Causes of Crime’ the Tories and Labour have competed bitterly to be the ‘toughest’. They are, after all, competing to win the support of the same narrow-minded. Self-interested section of the middle class in this election. But that is not all. Whichever party runs the State after this election will be keenly interested in ‘tooling up’; equipping itself with all the powers necessary to whip the working class and its supporters into line.


Read more ...

More articles on Police and Prisons

Our site uses cookies to improve your browsing experience. By using the site you consent to the use of cookies.
More information Ok